Democratic elections are common in many parts of the world, but for such a popular practice, they can be incredibly complex and confusing processes — so much so that there's even a branch of political science called psephology devoted to them. You don't have to be a political scientist to know that voting can be confusing, though. For many, merely arriving at informed positions on the issues of the day and then determining which candidate best represents that stance is difficult enough, especially through the hall of mirrors that is the contemporary political media. A few weeks ago we talked about ProCon.org, a site that can ease the process of deciding your own stance. This week we're taking a look at iSideWith.com, which can help you quickly and efficiently figure out which candidate's positions are closest to yours.
iSideWith.com's chief service is its political quiz, which asks a series of questions to determine your thoughts on a range of political issues. (For the most precise results, be sure you click "other stances" for each question to see the full range of available response options, and click "show more questions" at the end of every issue segment.) After the quiz, you'll get a custom report that'll show you a host of results, including:
which candidate you side with most often
which party's platform is most similar to your views
how well you match with every currently active candidate
which candidate you side with most often in a number of issues you consider important
where you fall on a two-axis political compass
how common your views are, broken down by electoral district for the whole country
These results are easy to share on social media, and given that close to 24 million users have taken the quiz to date, chances are good that you've seen at least one results report in your newsfeed. And while most of iSideWith.com's materials focus on the United States, they also offer analogous political quizzes for several other countries, including Australia, Canada, Spain, the UK, and India.
Answering these quiz questions also provide a valuable opportunity for users — especially American users — to reflect on exactly where they stand on each of the specific issues it covers. Thanks in part to the United States's two-party system, it's easy to think of complex policy questions as binary matters with just two approaches available to choose from (specifically, the Republican and Democratic party lines). In fact, there are dozens of ways to approach many of these issues, and thousands of possible permutations of opinion on all of them together. As a result, most users will find that they have complex political preferences that don't neatly line up with any one party's views. Discovering how much you really have in common with your political party of choice can have important implications for how you vote, both for the 2016 presidential race and for state and local elections — which may have an even bigger impact on your daily life.
iSideWith.com also offers some interesting polling info pages based on user responses to its quiz questions. These pages track user opinions on a range of controversial issues both broad and narrow, such as:
While it's interesting to see how iSideWith.com's respondents break down on these issues, the site acknowledges that its polls don't survey a representative sample of the population and thus shouldn't be taken too seriously. It also says very little about how it determines each candidate's policies, though it assures visitors that its operators "thoroughly research" each candidate's stance on the issues the site addresses and update its matching algorithm to reflect changes in candidate positions (also known as "flip-flops" or "evolutions," depending on the election cycle). These shortcomings mean that iSideWith.com shouldn't be considered a scientific tool for determining whom you should vote for, but it's a good way to get started on figuring out which candidate is right for you.